Pay TV giant Sky has posted an 18% hike in earnings after seeing the best growth in customers for eleven years.

The group hailed an "outstanding" performance in Britain and Ireland, where it now has more than 12 million customers.

Sky, which serves more than 20 million customers group-wide following the acquisition of businesses in Italy and Germany, posted operating profits of £1.4 billion for the year to 30 June on revenues up 5% to £11.3 billion.

Sky's pre-tax profits rose 6% on an underlying basis, to £1.2 billion.

As well as seeing it best customer growth for more than a decade, Sky said it saw the group's highest ever increase in customers across Germany and Austria.

The group added 506,000 customers in Britain and Ireland after attracting another 124,000 in the final quarter alone, which is a 65% rise year-on-year.

Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said the revenue growth as well as a "relentless focus on costs" helped drive the annual profits hike.

He added the group was off to a "strong start" following its deal last November to buy Sky Italia and a majority interest in Sky Deutschland, which saw it change its name from BSkyB to Sky.

Mr Darroch said: "The past 12 months have been an outstanding period of growth for Sky.

"We've successfully completed a deal that has transformed the size and scale of opportunity for the business whilst delivering an excellent financial and operational performance."

Sky's profits rise came despite forking out a record £4.2 billion in February to keep its Premier League football rights.

The deal gave it the rights to 126 live games a season from 2016 to 2018, which it claims is three times as many live matches as any other broadcaster.

Sky also said it spent an extra 5% on programming costs in the year as it focused on producing its own homegrown content, such as Enfield Haunting in Britain and Ireland, which it said attracted the third-highest ever audience for a Sky original drama series.

Across the whole group, Sky attracted another 973,000 customers, up 45% on the previous year, with 158,000 added in the fourth quarter.

It also cheered improvements on so-called churn, down from 10.9% to 9.8% in Britain and Ireland - its lowest for 11 years - as fewer customers left the group.